Coldplay recorded this song in a Barcelona church, which provided the distinctive echo. Bass player Guy Berryman told Entertainment Weekly: "When I imagine the song in my head, I see London in 1850. A hell of a lot of rain and men in top hats."
This folk-tinged ghost story was written overnight after producer Brian Eno's assistant, Markus Dravs, assessed one of Chris Martin's songs as "good" but not yet "great." Martin explained to Q magazine July 2008: "I was mortified. But if you tell me to write a better song, I'll do it. He said it was good but said it in a German way. If you come in wis ze song, it's finished, complete, great, I will say it's great. Zis is not finished, not complete and therefore I cannot say it's great. So I was, OK, f-k you, man! And the next day I came in and played Cemeteries Of London."
This features some Spanish flamenco clapping. Chris Martin told MTV News that this was their first use of handclaps on any of the band's albums. Drummer Will Champion added: "The Spanish flamenco clapping is incredible when you hear it done properly, although ours is a very crude and English version of it. It's like more of a golf clap - 'Good par!' - or some seals."
Chris Martin (from The Sun newspaper May 13, 2008): "It's our attempt at a Smiths song. It's about witch drownings. I was interested about that period in London where people were supposedly drowned for being a witch. And that's where that song came from. About being accused of something you didn't do."